231. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Additional Thai Forces for Laos
Souvanna has asked for another Thai infantry battalion.2 There is a battalion at Udorn which could be readied quickly although we may need to provide some weapons and other equipment.
The pros and cons of putting in the second battalion are not very different from those we considered in coming to the decision to agree to the first unit.
—The first battalion was put in place without any significant notice—there have been no kick-backs so far. The risk of public attention focusing on the second may not be great. Thai forces already on the ground are credited with having bucked up the morale of Vang Pao’s forces and contributing to the stand-off they have been able to maintain. The situation remains tenuous and we have several weeks yet to go before the rains take their toll on the North Vietnamese advance. The second battalion with its artillery support could do much to strengthen the defenses and give Vang Pao another useful shot in the arm. Moreover, it could free some Lao forces to bolster the defense of the strong point at Bouam Long which thus far has tied down much of the North Vietnamese reserve that otherwise could have been brought to bear against Long Tieng. The additional strength also may deter a North Vietnamese advance along routes 7 and 13 toward Vang Vien or Vientiane by increasing the threat on their flank.
—On the other hand there is still no assurance that Long Tieng can be held. While a second Thai battalion would aid in that effort it would provide no guarantee. We still run some risk that the introduction of these forces would become known and result in a domestic outcry which might inhibit our future air operations in Laos. The problem of affecting an orderly withdrawal and preventing a serious loss of Thai forces would be more complicated (but not insurmountably so). These additional Thai forces might give the North Vietnamese an incentive to intensify their attacks. Moreover, the use of Thai forces will detract from their counterinsurgency activities in Thailand. We cannot be sure that this will be the last such request—it may be only the second in an escalating series. The Chinese might also react by stepping up their support of the insurgency in Northern Thailand.
We do not know whether Souvanna has directly approached the Thai with this request. Nor are we sure that the plans for employment [Page 815] of the unit have been agreed between them. We will need to confirm both of these points before we act.
That you approve our indication of willingness to agree to the introduction of a second Thai battalion subject to confirmation of a Lao request to the Thai and Lao-Thai agreement as to the concept for its employment.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 567, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Thai Involvement in Laos. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Sent for action. Holdridge and Kennedy sent this memorandum to Kissinger on April 14 recommending that he sign it and indicating U. Alexis Johnson had cleared it.↩
- Souvanna’s request of April 11 is attached to a memorandum from Helms to Kissinger and others, April 11. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 567, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Thai Involvement in Laos)↩
- Nixon initialed the approve option.↩